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Richardson, Saints face AFL reckoning

Under-pressure St Kilda coach Alan Richardson is optimistic the Saints can bounce back from the misery of last year's AFL season.

Richardson, Saints face AFL reckoning

Under-pressure St Kilda coach Alan Richardson is optimistic the Saints can bounce back from the misery of last year's AFL season.

Saints head coach ALAN RICHARDSON walks away from talking to his players during the AFL match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
Saints head coach ALAN RICHARDSON walks away from talking to his players during the AFL match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Is this the year it all falls apart for St Kilda and Alan Richardson?

If recent weeks are any indication, another rough AFL season awaits at Moorabbin.


What had started as a back niggle for star defender Jake Carlisle has escalated into a full-blown injury that may require season-ending surgery.

Four-time club best and fairest winner Jack Steven's immediate future is clouded after taking indefinite leave to deal with mental health issues.

And big-name recruit Dan Hannebery's dodgy hamstrings have denied him the solid pre-season he needs to improve on an underwhelming finish to his time at Sydney.

At the very least, all three are long odds to line up for St Kilda's round-one clash with Gold Coast on March 24 - a match that suddenly looms as a virtual must-win for the Saints to restore the faith of their long-suffering members.

As it stands, sixth-year coach Richardson is well and truly in the hot seat after a miserable season in which the Saints managed just four wins.

While adamant he won't be bowed by external noise, an admirably forthright Richardson concedes he was part of the problem last season.

"Throughout the year, we probably over-reacted at times - I'm talking about me personally," he tells AAP.

"I tended to focus a little bit much on what was not working, which needs to happen but you just need to get a bit of balance on stuff that was working.

"There's certainly been some external noise questioning 'do we have the personnel?'. But we don't hide from the fact that last year was disappointing.

"We were heading the right way. We should have been in a position to really launch a challenge and we didn't do that."

The optimistic view is that last year was a blip and the 2016-17 seasons - where the Saints won more games than they lost and twice barely missed making the finals - are a better indication of their potential.

The retirement of club greats Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna also had a big impact on the club's on-field leadership, although second-year captain Jarryn Geary is highly rated internally.

"To a group that was already a pretty young group, there was a bit of a vacuum there," Richardson says.

"It did provide really good opportunities for those blokes to grow and we think Geary will be a better captain, we think Seb Ross will be a better leader, we think Dylan Roberton back into the team will be a better leader and a strong addition."

Richardson can justifiably see green shoots in a young core featuring the likes of Ross, Jade Gresham, Jack Billings and Jack Steele.

And the blooding of talent is set to continue with mature-aged draftees Matthew Parker, Robert Young and Nick Hind all in the mix for round-one debuts.

As for the undeniable focus on his job security, Richardson reckons not much has changed from the unflappable attitude he had as a half-back at Collingwood.

"When you reflect back on your career - I never worried about umpires, I never really worried about noise that was coming over the fence," Richardson says.

"As a coach, I've been the same. I reckon I've probably rung the umpiring department three or four times.

"I was lucky enough to have Leigh Matthews as my coach for nine years and something that was often said by Leigh was 'never worry about anything you can't control'.

"It's never been on my wall but it is something that I've really quickly gone to."

ST KILDA

Coach: Alan Richardson

Captain: Jarryn Geary

Last five years: 18-14-9-11-16

Premierships: 1 (1966).

Key five: Seb Ross, Dylan Roberton, Jade Gresham, Jack Steven, Tim Membrey.

One to watch: Dylan Roberton. Hasn't played a senior game since his dramatic on-field collapse during the round-four game against Geelong last season. With his heart scare behind him, the rebounding defender should add plenty to the Saints' backline.

Ins: Sam Alabakis (Category B rookie), Jack Bytel (Calder Cannons), Dan Hannebery (Sydney), Nick Hind (Essendon VFL), Dean Kent (Melbourne), Max King (Sandringham Dragons), Matthew Parker (South Fremantle), Callum Wilkie (North Adelaide), Robert Young (North Adelaide).

Outs: Ray Connellan (delisted), Nathan Freeman (delisted), Sam Gilbert (delisted), Hugh Goddard (Carlton), Tom Hickey (West Coast), Darren Michington (delisted), Koby Stevens (retired), Maverick Weller (Richmond), Nathan Wright (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Jarryn Geary, Nathan Brown, Shane Savage

HB: Josh Battle, Dylan Roberton, Jimmy Webster

C: Jack Sinclair, Seb Ross, Jack Newnes

HF: Jack Billings, Josh Bruce, Blake Acres

F: Jade Gresham, Paddy McCartin, Tim Membrey

R: Billy Longer, Jack Steele, Jack Steven

I: Dan Hannebery, David Armitage, Luke Dunstan, Jack Lonie

Predicted finish: 17th

AAP


AAP




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